Ah Brain, you were on to something all those years ago plotting to take over the world. With your loyal sidekick Pinky eager to help, every night was the same game plan: Try to take over the world!
Apparently international curling teams are making an attempt to do the same this season as #TeamWorld has dominated the opening few weeks on the World Curling Tour. While Canada continues to be known for producing the strongest curling teams on the planet, the world is catching up and, if early 2018/19 results are any indication this could be a continuation of the trend we have been noticing for some time now. The world is not trying to catch up, they have caught up! And now they want the lead.
The question is whether #TeamWorld can hold off #TeamCanada throughout the season. And what about #TeamUSA?
The sport of curling has developed into a truly global game, especially with the strong #growthesport mentality in the Pacific-Asia region. Japan, Korea and China are increasingly becoming top nations for elite curlers on tour. When we look at the updated Power Rankings below, we certainly see an early bias towards the #PACC, especially on the women's side. Japan and Korea continue to be among the strongest women's teams in the world with both nations now producing multiple teams competing for tour titles all season.
For the men, we still see a strong #TeamEurope presence dominating many tour events. European teams are not only winning tour events but are also qualifying for the playoffs week in and week out. Of course this is nothing new, we have been seeing this for a few years now. But I do think we are seeing a greater influx of European teams competing in Canadian-hosted events and finding success. Canada still produces some of the best ice and top events on tour so the increase in international participation should be expected. And lets be honest, stronger competition only helps our home nation athletes and the overall growth of the sport.
This past long weekend the #wct focus was in Oakville, Ontario for the #OakvilleFallClassic. Both men's and women's events were contested. In addition we saw our first mixed doubles event in Battleford, Saskatchewan. There were a few #TeamUpset results on the ice too, which is always great to see. With continued respect to #TwineTimeFam member Jason Gunnlaugson, here is the quick #GunnerRunback on this past weekend:
- In the women's draw at the #OakvilleFallClassic, a Japanese team put the world on notice they could be the dark horse team of the season. Sayaka Yoshimura emerged victorious defeating #TeamUpset flag bearer Erica Hopson in the final. Russia's Anna Sidorova and Switzerland's Elena Stern had successful weekends as well, reaching the SF. Ontario's Jaimee Gardner and USA's Stephanie Senneker navigated the TB process to reach the QF.
- The men's #OakvilleFallClassic event would see a similar result to the women with the Land of the Rising Sun being the last flag standing. Japan's Yuta Matsumura claimed the championship over Matt Dunstone. Switzerland's Peter De Cruz and USA's Rich Ruohonen would claim SF finishes. QF appearances were made by Switzerland's Yannick Schwaller, China's Xiu Yue Ma, Scotland's Ross Paterson and Ontario's Scott McDonald.
- At the season opening Battleford Mixed Doubles Fall Curling Classic, the cream of the crop rose to the top when past and current Canadian champion pairs Jocelyn Peterman / Brett Gallant and Laura Walker / Kirk Muyres squared off in the championship final. In this final the 2016 Canadian champs Peterman / Gallant got the best of the 2018 champs Walker / Muyres in a close finale. A pair of Saskatchewan teams, Quick / Armstrong and Kleiter / Kleiter, made deep runs to the SF in front of home province fans.
As expected, teams who were playing their second event of the season were able to have a slight advantage over the competition playing their first event. Both Oakville winners, Yoshimura and Matsumura, also competed at the season opening event in Hokkaido. While neither won the event, both had QF appearances and were able to turn that result into their favour picking up championship wins. But other teams playing their second event also had strong results. Team Dunstone's runner-up finish is a giant step forward from their season opener when they missed the playoffs. Team Sidorova continues to impress early on, following up a season opening runner-up finish with a SF finish this weekend. And Switzerland's Peter De Cruz has back-to-back SF finishes to kick start their 2018/19 campaign.
We also saw a few #TeamUpset flag bearers emerge, namely on the women's side of the draw. Team Hopson reaching the final, Team Gardner and Team Senneker making the QF were a few surprises in the field. Team Stern's successful deep run in the draw could be seen as a mild surprise as well although #TwineTime did warn you in the event preview to keep your eyes on this team as they may just be the "future is now" team in Switzerland. And how about USA's Team Ruohonen? The defending US champs, coming off a strong showing at last year's world championship, continued to impress with a SF showing in their season debut. Maybe #TeamUSA is becoming the next team to watch out for as Ruohonen reached the SF, Senneker reached the QF and last weekend Shuster made the final and Christensen reached the SF in Winnipeg. #StayTuned perhaps?
How did these results shake up the #PowerRankings for Week 2? Time to find out! Now remember this season we are using the updated #TwineTime tour system to fill out the weekly Power Rankings. These rankings are done purely on results and the mock new system and point structure this blog has suggested as a future option for the sport. For this past weekend in Oakville, the event would fall under a Tour 250 classification. For more info or what means, revisit the summary blog post HERE.
Bring on the new #PowerRankings:
- Team Ulsrud - 500 (LW: 1)
- Team Matsumura / Abe - 340 (NR)
- Team Edin - 300 (2)
- Team De Cruz - 270 (4)
- Team Calvert - 250 (3)
- Team Yoshimura - 340 (LR: NR)
- Team Robertson - 250 (1)
- Team J. Kim - 250 (NR)
- Team Sidorova - 240 (2)
- Team Matsumura - 150
#TeamWorld has the clear advantage so far on the rankings mountain, claiming 8 of the 10 combined men's and women's spots. If you add in the honourable mention list, #TeamWorld owns 13 spots, #TeamCanada sitting with 5 and #TeamUSA with 2.
Of course the argument will be made many of the top Canadian men's and women's teams have yet to hit the ice, namely Team Gushue, Team Koe, Team Jones and Team Homan. So yes we should expect the #PowerRankings mountain to become a bit more rocky and slippery as the season grows on. But for now, at this early point of the season, international teams are certainly showing off their chops on tour. Perhaps the teams are sitting around the club table, enjoying a pre-event beer with coaches asking, "What are we going to do tonight?" And in fine Brain fashion, many of these teams are saying, "The same thing we do every weekend. Try to take over the world!"
Before ending this blog post, quickly lets address the elephant in the room from last week's post. Sliding into a conversation on social conscious, You Can Play Project, Pride Tape and the role curling has in the grand discussion of inclusion and equality can be polarizing for some. Look I get it. Some people find this conversation to still be a bit uncomfortable and would prefer the topic to stay off the competition ice. And some, like myself, feel the sport and its athletes at the "elite" level should be more compelled to have a stronger voice around the collective social table.
This post was meant to be a conversation starter. In no means was the intent to "throw curling under the bus" or be negative against the sport. Lets be honest, if I was not a huge fan of the sport (governing bodies, athletes, sponsors, fans, ect) would I really dedicate this much time of my life to a blog covering the sport where I make no money and do it solely for passion and love for sport? Come on! As well, it was not intended to say the sport is doing nothing on the topic either. Thank you to the numerous curling clubs and club curlers out there who tweeted celebrating the events currently being offered across North America. I will say Canada seems to be lagging behind though as most of the stories, pictures and feedback I heard was from growing clubs in the US (while Canada continues to close clubs unfortunately). The times are a changin' folks! Shout out to the GTA though who have been highly engaged and involved in this topic for many years. This is all great news and success towards a better future, not only for the sport and athletes but humanity as a whole.
I stand by my post though as well. We still have a far way to go until we hit the button with this topic. High school and university curling could still use a stronger You Can Play message with an impressionable yet vocal demographic. Yes LGBTQ leagues exist and a LGBTQ national championship is held but there is much room for growth. Many sports offer similar or more. Most sports taking place at the Gay Olympics level have similar leagues and championships. Curling is not unique and distinct in these offerings. Yes we should celebrate the forward movement but we also cannot settle. Until we see a You Can Play / Pride Tape night at a #gsoc event, I will continue to push the topic. Have we climbed the sports conscious mountain? Yes! But stopping at the first rest area on the mountain when looking up and seeing a large climb still ahead of you does not equate to reaching the mountain top and conquering the mountain itself. Keep climbing curling!
And to anyone I offended or upset, I apologize if the post was taken in a negative light as it was not my intent. Again, not apologizing for the stance or opinion though. If you agree or disagree or have questions, please feel free to contact me directly and we can continue the conversation.
Have a great week and #StayTuned for the preview post for this upcoming weekend's action on the ice.